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If the paying customer—$2 per adult, $1 for kids—had to go through the same regimen the players endure to arrive at every game, The King and His Court show still would be worth it. After all these years there are local promoters and managers around who don't quite believe that Feigner is the genuine item. "You want me to get the other five now?" they say upon their arrival. Or, "What's the joke?"
But no. No joke. There are just the four and one or two other men on the bench in case of fire, famine or flood. Feigner starts a performance by warming up for a few minutes with any number of his 19 windups, 14 hand deliveries, five speeds and 1,300 different pitches. He uses only about 30 or 40 different pitches in a game, but they are, of course, enough.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen," Feigner says over the mike this evening. "The King and His Court welcome you and this very fine team that is out here to beat us tonight. We want you to keep rooting for them, anyway.
"People always wonder why we have four men instead of three or two. That's so we'll have a hitter when we get the bases loaded. You may wonder what happens when we get 'em loaded and our fourth man strikes out...three times. Well, that happened twice, and he is no longer with us.
"Remember, this is all for fun, so don't ruin the evening by worrying about the score. That's been taken care of."
And The King and His Court are on. Unlike the Harlem Globetrotters, who have become conglomerated, big-moneyed parodies of themselves and hire their opponents to lose, Feigner faces teams every night that are out to beat him, make names for themselves in the local burg and earn clippings for their own scrapbooks. Town and country hotshots treasure their hits off The King; time and again, out on the road some old-timer will come upon Feigner and challenge his recall of a squib single the old-timer got off him in Butte back in 1955. "I should remember that one," The King will reply more often than not. "Weren't many hits that year."
Most of the time these days Feigner is playing against men who have lost to him before; sometimes he is facing a third generation. They know all the tricks, and sometimes they don't cooperate. "It's easy for the Globetrotters because the other team plays along," says Feigner. "But we get teams who don't care about the people in the stands, the show, the money or anything. They just want to beat us. They actually think the crowd came to see them."
Deep down, Feigner's true show is founded upon comic surprise and deception with most of the laughs, luckily, being visual. (Faulty microphones spoil a lot of the team's socko verbal numbers.) Besides pitching from behind his back and between his legs, throwing fast, slow, in between and every other which way, plus blindfolded and from second base, The King sometimes doesn't pitch the ball at all. One of the best routines in the act is when Feigner moves into some of his multiple, collapsible windups, tangles his arms and legs, untwists his belly and fires the ball behind his back and into his own glove. Simultaneously, the catcher stands up to obscure the umpire's vision and slams his mitt as though he has caught the ball.
Many umpires have called a strike rather than admit they didn't see the pitch. Once, in Edmonton, Alberta a violent argument ensued over such a call between the batter and umpire. Normally Feigner points out his mistake to the arbiter, but this time The King was laughing too hard; the batter was arguing because he thought the pitch was high.
The other members of the Court are hardly straight men. Al Jackson, the first baseman who has been with Feigner for 15 years, is a wizard with a bat and glove. A big boisterous Irishman from New England, Jackson's specialty is throwing two and three softballs simultaneously and accurately while playing catch with the rest of the team in the pre-game warmup. It is such a subtle talent that half the crowds miss it, but when they do catch on, Jackson receives some of the loudest cheers of the night.